21 Mar 11

The Pee Cup Club

So like when me and my sister Bam-Bam were in college, one of the times when we flew home to L.A. for Thanksgiving my mom met us at the sphincter of that horrid cesspool known as Los Angeles International Airport. We wheeled our bags toward the car, but not without a Very Important Potty Stop. This mattered because my sisters Bubbles and Buttercup were only about four and eight at the time, which means (a) they had to go pee like every five minutes and (b) they always lied and said “No” when you asked them if they needed to pee before we all got in the car. We all obediently went to the little girls’ room and left, being given the customary Los Angeles greeting of almost having our rear bumper taken off three times before we could exit the airport.

It’s somewhat redundant for me to say that the night before Thanksgiving the 105 freeway was a complete parking lot. We made our way toward the 110 at about two miles an hour, and just before we reached La Brea, Bubbles starts fidgeting. Several minutes later, just before we get to Crenshaw, she starts doing a bona fide pee pee dance.

“I have to go bathroom,” she squeaks.

“What? You just went?” is the general reaction. She did go just like, twenty minutes ago.

“I have to go.”

I look at her, and it’s obvious this distress is genuine. She’s sitting on top of her foot and doing that awkward wiggle that only a four-year-old can do because anybody older will have learned to be more self-conscious.

“I think she really has to go,” I tell the others.

Problem: We have just hit the threshold of places in Los Angeles where five white suburban females will not pull off the freeway. Whether or not the legends of bullets whizzing overhead and having our fancy minivans carjacked were true, we believed them. We had to push up through Downtown and make it back to the land of brightly lit malls, big box stores and chain restaurants.

We reached Normandie. Bubbles began to sweat. We reached the 110. Bubbles began to shake. Bam-Bam looked around her and found an empty Burger King cup. It was one of those obscenely oversized soda cups that they made fun of in Super Size Me, but it was empty.

“Here, use this,” Bam-Bam tells her.

Bubbles was always far beyond her years in terms of her snobbishness. She graduated from diapers early and by this age was informing us (correctly) when our outfits “just didn’t go.” She looked at the cup scornfully and shook her head.

“Okay, then,” my mom told her. “You can try to hold it but we won’t be home for at least half an hour.”

This means very little to a four year old. With renewed commitment she tightened her crossed legs and tried to sit as still as possible. But with each lurch forward and sudden stop, her squeals of protest grew louder.

This was getting serious. I could tell by her face that she was either going to injure herself or have a major explosion all over the seat. And I was sitting next to her.

“Are you sure you don’t want to use the Burger King cup?” I asked her, trying to strike a casual tone.

I get the stinkeye. “Of course not.”

“Okay,” I shrug. “But it’s your chance to be in the Pee Cup Club.”

The car got very, very silent.

“The what?!?” Bubbles wants to know.

“It’s a secret society,” I tell her, perfectly calm as I lie through my teeth. “You have to pee in a cup in a car while it’s moving. And then you’re a member for life.”

This concept is intriguing to Bubbles. Her face unscrews from the expression of agony she’s been holding as we pass Staples Center and she looks around the car.

“Are any of you in the Pee Cup Club?”

Some people will tell you it is bad to tell lies to children. I say if grownups can make up all that crap about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, fibbing about the existence of the Pee Cup Club to avoid having to spend an evening scrubbing urine out of the back seat of a Ford Windstar is kosher.

“Yes, I’m a member,” says Bam-Bam, in a grave and hush-hush tone. One by one, we acknowledge that we are indeed members all of the Pee Cup Club. Because she is four, Bubbles believes us even though every single one of us is full of shit. Like I’d ever pee in a cup. Right.

“You guys can’t look,” Bubbles tells us.

“We won’t,” my mom promises. “And I’ll drive really smooth.”

This is the part of the story where, if you are enjoying a nice tasty brioche, you may wish to either put the food down or choose to finish reading at a more convenient time.

Everyone pinky swears not to look, but Bubbles hesitates for a moment.

“Can you hold the cup for me?” she asks me.

Nobody can ever, ever, ever say that I do not love my sister. I nodded. She unbuckled her seatbelt. My mom slowed to try to avoid braking through the traffic. Bubbles drops her flower printed stretchy pants and hovers over the empty Burger King cup.

I remember this moment with surreal clarity. It is dark, and my aim is not perfect. Warm pee splashes onto my hand and I stifle the urge to flinch or scream. I move my hand a bit to the right and the pee rolls down my fingers into the cup.

The ffffffffffffffffssssssssssssssshhhhhhh of warm pee pours down into the cup. My mom turns on the radio. The others take odd halting breaths as they try desperately not to laugh.

The cup was nearly full, and I was getting nervous. But at last she was done and I snapped the lid back on. I placed it in a cup holder and glowered at it while Bubbles slumped back into her seat, beads of sweat dripping from her forehead. She was exhausted.

My hand was still damp with pee, but there was nothing I could do as there weren’t any leftover Burger King napkins to go with the empty cup. I held my hand in front of me for the remainder of the trip home, after which I raced to the bathroom and used half a bar of soap on it.

But I’ll never forget how Bubbles turned to look at me, her face faintly illuminated by the glow of lights from the skyscrapers, and sighed, “Thank you.”

That’s love, dudes.